Lawyer questions Cebu coal ash landfill

CEBU CITY -- An environmental protection advocate called the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) decision to allow the use of a secured landfill facility in a beachfront property in Naga City “a contemptuous act.”

Coal ash, waste generated by coal-fired power plants, is best entombed than disposed of in a landfill or recycled, said lawyer Benjamin Cabrido.

Cabrido represents the Philippine Earth Justice Center Inc. (PEJC), fishers and farmers’ groups, and concerned citizens of the cities of Toledo and Naga who went to court last year against the allegedly indiscriminate disposal of coal ash.

The group asked for an environmental protection order on operators of coal-fired power plants, to stop them from moving any amount of coal combustion residuals or coal ash outside their premises.

“That deal (of the Cebu Provincial Government) with the DENR amounts to nothing because the issue is already with the environment court,” said Cabrido.

“Whether to allow Kepco to use the facility or not is outside the domain of DENR,” he also said.

He referred to the decision of a DENR line agency, the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), allowing the use of a coal ash secured landfill facility owned by the Cebu Provincial Government in Barangay Tina-an, City of Naga.

The Kepco-Salcon Power Corp. (KSPC) has signed an agreement with Capitol to dump coal ash in the former Balili property.

EMB-Central Visayas director Fernando Quililan informed Mandaue City Regional Trial Court Branch 28 Judge Marilyn Lagura-Yap last week that he reconsidered the agency’s earlier stand to disallow the use of the facility.

Quililan took note of Capitol lawyer Marino Martinquilla’s request for an amendment of the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for the secured landfill facility, for the non-use of bentonite clay.

Cabrido said the decision to allow the use of the landfill facility in the Balili property “is a contemptuous act.”

“I am unfazed by the development,” Cabrido told Sun.Star Cebu.

Some environmentalists believe coal ash contains toxic chemicals that have harmful effects on the health of the people and the environment.

A temporary environmental protection order (Tepo) was issued by Judge Marilyn Yap last year and this was extended in March this year.

She subsequently issued an order allowing the transport of coal ash from the KSPC compound to the Naga Power Complex ash pond, then to facilities of a cement company and a recycling firm.

The court order to transport ash outside the compound of power companies would be monitored while owners and operators would be held liable, said Cabrido.

“There are parameters in place for the transport of coal ash. If these parameters or safety nets being permitted by the court would be violated, they can be held liable. Their authority would be revoked,” he said.

Cabrido, on behalf of environment protection advocates, said they would look at the safeguards the companies put in place.

“Whether this coal ash can actually be used by cement plants, the cement producers should declare under oath that they processed the coal ash,” he said.

“If this (oath) is absent, they may have diverted the coal ash in other areas and violated the court order, the Tepo,” he added.

Cabrido said the group prefers that coal ash waste generated by coal-fired power plants be entombed, rather than disposed of in a landfill or recycled. (BAP/Sun.Star Cebu)

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